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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - The Year of Steve

2011, now almost over, was the year of Steve Jobs. These are my memories of Steve: the times he called me, the times I sat with him and talked, and a surprise visit. The memorial.

I have included the (somewhat edited) text I sent to a friend in August through October of this year. I have added more that I can remember, also


I remember Steve Jobs.

The first time we met, was an event set up by Kai Krause. Kai wanted to show our interface improvements to the big kahuna. I showed my idea processor (I will write a short blog post on it sometime).

But Steve's first words were that it wasn't scalable, and he hit the nail on the head. He was like that. His appreciation of Kai was that he was there to show stuff off, but that he hadn't really done much. He got it instantly, he told me later. He bided his time, and soon the show was over. He apparently sensed that Fractal and Meta Tools had just merged and that the personalities weren't really compatible.

A few days later I was in the Seybold show in San Francisco. Our booth was huge and overflowing with interest from the crowd in the Moscone center. We were showing Painter 6, with the new brushes and effects. I was in our small press room talking with John Derry, behind a closed door, in-between press appointments, and one of our marketing people ushered in Steve and then left us alone. Steve said that we had to talk, but in a more private place. He was so impressed by what we had done and he wanted to make sure our products stayed on Mac. We made an appointment for me to come into Apple: his real intention.

When I did, I met with Steve in his office this time. I was overdressed, in a button-up shirt and dress slacks. He was in shorts and a T-shirt. Birkenstocks. We talked. He said: Apple really needs people like you and I think I can make you an offer you are going to like. He was very nice. We talked for at least a half an hour about the state of the Mac and life, and stuff. I set up a meeting with Avie Tevanian and also with Bas Ording, his UI guru. Avie was a shark at negotiations, and I was a bit put off. He ran R&D. Bas was a fast-thinking and brilliant UI designer and he and I hit it off instantly, trading UI stories. My demo went well, and he shared some of his thoughts with me. Bas and I still speak today sometimes though we work in completely different parts of the company.

Steve kept calling me at home. And he gave me his home number. I did call him there once. This first time, it didn't work out. I was unimpressed by Apple's advances in the stock market. They actually went down while I was trying to decide. Painter called, so I had to do it.

But it was a rush to get a call from Steve Jobs at home.

Later, when things at MetaCreations changed and it became known that we were divesting the software, he called me in my office at work. By then I was the CEO again and working to sell Painter. I went in to meet him again and we chatted about these things, the world, and another offer. Once again, to Avie Tevanian, and a new offer was struck. Avie has since retired (I assume he's a rich man).

I had to turn it down since the terms of the Painter deal with Corel required that I consult for them for an unspecified time. And I morally had to do it and not leave my people in a bad place. Though the dismantling of Metacreations was unpleasant work, I didn't want to entrust it to someone without a soul. I had to do it, because of the history of me and Painter and my people and I couldn't be selfish.

So I did my consulting gig with Corel, and made Painter 7 shine with woodcuts, and liquid metal layers and all the good stuff I always do. After the consulting gig, I decided to retire (!) for a year. At the end of it, I went to Apple with hat in hand and asked for a job. I met with Peter Graffagnino, now retired, and eventually I found myself at Apple with a damn good deal. Steve wasn't involved this time, but I noticed when Peter was talking with Steve (translation: Steve called Peter on his phone) noticeably about new products, that Peter would then mention it to me, because clearly I was part of the conversation.

One day in 2004 I arrived at Apple, waiting to make a left turn on Mariani. Steve drove up behind me in his silver SL-55, waiting for the same light. He apparently noticed I was driving my SL-600, I saw him smile a bit and his head tilted to the side a little. I think he was trying to figure out who I was. That might have been tough, since I had just cut off all my hair, so I doubt he recognized me just then without my then-iconic beard and pony tail. Even so, I'm sure he was quite content to know that his more modern SL had at least 50hp on my V-12.

I have seen Steve several times while working at Apple, mostly passing in the halls, or saying hello in an elevator. I always appreciated that he didn't shave. With my busy life, I often don't have the time either. I last saw him in the latter part of August 2011, walking through Caffe Macs in the Infinite Loop campus. He was quite thin.

But, yes, I remember Steve. And the world has felt the effect of his wisdom.

Steve Passes On

It was October 5, 2011. That morning things were tense at work: a disgruntled employee at Permanente was responsible for a shooting at the quarry down Stevens Creek Boulevard that left several 3 dead. And an attempted carjacking left another woman shot but not fatally so, thank God. They found him the next day and he was shot and killed. Apple security had wisely warned employees not to leave their buildings and to keep exposure to a minimum. So it was a tense day. When I left work at 3:45 this was the big news. When I got home, I checked my iPhone and that's when I got the company-wide email from Tim Cook, our CEO. It was a sad time.

Coming to Apple the day after Steve dies was a bit like walking around near the epicenter of the quake of 1989, which I actually did. You expected to be able to survey all the damage. But there seemed to be a big difference at Apple. In the quake, power was off, gas mains were shut off to prevent explosions. But at Apple none of that kind of disruption seemed to have happened. Sure, people talked about it and brought out their memories of Steve. I certainly did. At no place on Earth did Steve have a more profound effect; but of course his effect is felt everywhere. You could tell that people still had the fire and resolve to make great products. Thanks to Steve, it is in our DNA.

There were a number of satellite trucks and interview tents set up outside Apple on Mariani. But I seriously doubt any employees were talking to the media. At 1 Infinite Loop, the flags were at half-mast. There was an impromptu memorial with flowers and pictures and laptops set up in the gardens. There was a steady stream of people walking by.

It was a time for reflection, a time for remembering.

The Memorial

The following comes from a rolling commentary that I sent to a good friend. Then more that comes from a wrap-up after a lunch with friends.

Fifty foot posters of Steve adorn the buildings of Infinite Loop. Songs play on a speaker system of unprecedented size in this venue, which is the quad between the Infinite Loop buildings. Thousands and thousands of people stand here trying to see anything. Pianos and mixers are in evidence for tributes by I don't know who yet. Guitar amp stacks up on the stage. Security was tight coming in so there is only one entrance to this vast space which is teeming with Apple employees. It's like a Rolling Stones concert. That's how crazy it is. A helicopter passes overhead.

Posters: Steve at 25. Steve with a Macintosh. Steve as I knew him at about 50. Songs: Tupelow Honey by Van Morrison. Roll Away The Dew by Grateful Dead. I expect Bob Dylan, one of Steve's favorites. 60s songs I can't even recall perhaps Jan and Dean. Idyllic songs. Dream a Little Dream with Louis Armstrong's gravelly voice and some female vocalists from the 40s. O-Bla-Di-O-Bla-Da by the Beatles. A song by the Rolling Stones is it Rainbow? Don't know the name but it's recognizable, mostly instrumental at the start, for a minute. Some Jack Johnson is playing now, with nice acoustic guitar. 

Security warned no pictures no recordings on the way in. So I won't do that. [Well, I did, but I saved them on my camera and include them here for the first time.]

I'm standing on concrete. Not good for my hips, but I wouldn't miss this for the world. I knew Steve. I have grieved for the guy I knew. Apple senses that we all need this, and they are right. 

Now Beatles In My Life is playing, sounds like Steve's playlist. This was Tom Hedges favorite song too. I'm about to cry. Dylan is playing now. Looks like I was right. Highway 61. 

The helicopters were warned off. But the moon is still in the sky. Of course. Between the clouds. 

Now they are playing the Beatles Get Back. The cell site is swamped. I think I'm lucky the first email got out. The company wi-fi is also maxed out. These events are too big for the usual solution. Joni Mitchell Clouds is playing now, a sad song. It's life's illusions I recall. I really don't know life at all.

Rolling Stones' I Miss You. More upbeat, thank God, otherwise I really am going to cry right here between all these people. Here Comes The Sun with George Harrison's voice and the Beatles backing him up. And here's Tim. He says all the retail stores are closed now as well. Introduces Lorene, Steve's wife. Bill Campbell speaks after Tim, teary but the coach he is comes out. They played Steve's narrated version of "The Crazy Ones". Talk about the Macintosh.

Norah Jones is playing piano now on the stage here, singing. The Maleness of You. If I Were a Painter. (!) and a Dylan song for Steve: Forever Young.

I see Al Gore over there next to Tim as they listen to Norah Jones sing her plaintive Dylan song.

Now Tim is introducing Al Gore to speak. He's talking about love in the use of technology. It erases the barriers of those we need to connect to.

Johnny Ive is speaking now. 

Coldplay is here to play for us. Wow!

They are playing Yellow right now. They played it for Steve and he told them it was shit, their singer says. But it's wonderful!

Now When I Used To Rule the World. One of their biggest songs. Wow!

Now they're playing Fix You. And Every Tear is a Waterfall. It's an upbeat number.

I am now sitting by the stage. Letting my weary back, feet, and hips rest. They are playing Norwegian Wood on the speakers. I like that one.

Dylan's version of All Along The Watchtower. Takes me back. I like Hendrix' cover of it though. ;-)

I'm having a Coke. They have free drinks and I grabbed whatever they had on ice. The sun has been out and I'm a bit warm. Now Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World is playing.

I decided to leave my car. Mariani is like a parking lot. I will go get lunch with some fellow employees who knew Steve and his tough management style firsthand.

Of all the speakers, Johnny Ive was the most touching of all. His anecdotes about Steve were really good.

I cried a few times.

After the event, I went with a bunch of folks to a place called the Tied House in Mountain View. It's a mini-brewery. There were significant managers and some of my most treasured friends there who work on the cameras and imaging software. And we were all drinking the beer. And having a nice lunch, talking about our memories of Steve, and what's next. I started a conversation thread on what's next. What would be considered impossible but just so much better. What is the next thing that we should strive to accomplish. And it was fun to hear the answers. From people interested in sensors to people who know how the camera stuff should work to the managers who just want to use it and have it work right.

The event was wonderful, and all the people were broken up over it. Pretty much everyone who was at the lunch had their tearful moments.

When Tim spoke, he was eloquent, respectful, inspiring, intelligent. When Bill Campbell spoke, He was nearly in tears at the start. But really came through as a powerful speaker that really knew Steve and his turnaround of Apple and how he accomplished it. How he did things not because they were easy, but because they were the right thing to do.

Johnny Ive spoke about Steve, in anecdotes and in wonderful references to his decisive capabilities. Steve always came up to Johnny and told him, "Hey Johnny, I have this really stupid idea". And sometimes the ideas were stupid, and sometimes they were really stupid. But Steve really knew that to turn an idea into a real product took lots of time and investment in honing it and making it what the original thought was like. And sometimes these thoughts produced greatness.

When they traveled, Johnny said, he would arrive and get to the hotel and set his bags down and then sit on the bed and move quite close to the phone. Soon, the inevitable call would come. It was Steve, "Hey Johnny, this Hotel sucks!". :-D

Al Gore said that every iDevice was a little bit of love from Steve and it was all about erasing the barriers to connect each to each other. That using the iPhone was almost like love to the brain, according to researchers.

Tim said that Steve's work on Apple stuff went on until his last day on earth. He personally recounted a story where Steve called him on the day the iPhone 4S came out, when he was in a meeting with the SoftBank CEO, and Steve called him to talk about the next product".

And mixed with it all was the music. The wonderful music of the world. Which flew through the air to touch down in Cupertino this day. In person, Coldplay and Norah Jones did unbelievable jobs producing sound from their hearts. My hips hurt from standing but I think my heart would have hurt more, and for longer, to miss it all.


  1. Thank you for sharing Mark.
    Best wishes, Cher

  2. You know this brings back memories. Some memories stays longer than others. Some never leaves. The whole story with Apple's development which somehow include Painter for me, will always be part of my life. Like when my parents talked about the second world war – that was part of their lives. When the first human took the first steps on the moon. Occasions like that. Then Steve Jobs. I still believe in Apple though. And some other things that stays true, no matter what. Thank you for sharing Mark!

    1. This post brings back so many memories to me. And I do remember vividly when Kennedy was shot and when Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon. Some things I will never forget.

      Thanks you for your kind words!

  3. I ran into your bog while trying to find some info regarding Apple RAW support for my camera (long, long story). I am happy I came across this very touching post. Your story is incredible from the start. It must have been an honor to meet Steve in the early days and then have the paths cross again. I bet he felt the same, otherwise wouldn't have tried to hire you twice! Regarding his pass, I still remember exactly where I was, what I was doing. I remember crying and that empty feeling. I have never met Steve, never worked for Apple but the sense of loss was enormous. I can't imagine what it was like for his family and friends. I'm an MD, and actually treat the same problem that took him from us. Although we all know our fate in life, one can never get used to such an early departure. I did watch the Memorial on the computer, but your words gave me a another depth and perspective. Thank you. After watching the WWDC13 keynote I felt that the spirits are high and innovation is imprinted in Apple's DNA, just like Steve wanted. He was a genius.

    1. And I have always felt that it is a privilege to work for Apple. And, of course, my history with my fellow employees at Fractal and Meta also shows me how fortunate I have been. Through good and bad, it's really the memories that count.

      The memorial for Steve was a special day for me. One of those days I will never forget. I can hardly read the post myself without tearing up. It was that kind of day.

      And what camera model is it that you have? Say, it wouldn't be the Fuji X-Pro 1 would it? ;-)

      Anyway, thanks for your kind words, Rafael.

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